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The Moonlighter (1953)

Approved | | Western | 19 September 1953 (USA)
A cattle herder turned rustler runs from a lynch mob and falls, again, for an ex-lover.


Roy Rowland


Niven Busch (story and screenplay)




Cast overview:
Barbara Stanwyck ... Rela
Fred MacMurray ... Wes Anderson
Ward Bond ... Cole Gardner
William Ching ... Tom Anderson
John Dierkes ... Sheriff Daws
Morris Ankrum ... Alexander Prince
Jack Elam ... Slim
Charles Halton ... Clemmons Usqubaugh - Undertaker
Norman Leavitt ... Tidy
Sam Flint ... Mr. Mott - Bank President
Myra Marsh Myra Marsh ... Mrs. Anderson
William Kerwin ... Tony
Tom Keene ... Sheriff (as Richard Powers)


In the early 1900s, Wes Anderson is arrested for night-time cattle rustling (moonlighting). He had been gone from his home town for five years, leaving his sweetheart, Rela, to wait for him. Wes' brother, Tom, has chosen a different path in life and works as a teller in a bank in Rio Hondo. Tom is in-love with Rela and he pressures her to marry him in Wes' absence. Languishing in a sheriff's jail, Wes is awaiting trial, which promises to be a fair one, at least according to the town sheriff. But an angry lynch mob of local ranchers agitate in front of the jail, swinging a hanging rope and hankering for Wes' blood. When the sheriff leaves his jail for a lunch-break, the mob breaks into the jail, grabs an imprisoned hobo by mistake and hangs him. The lynch-mob believes to have hung Wes but he is safe, in jail. After he escapes from jail, Wes vows revenge on the members of the lynch mob. During the following days, Wes raids the ranches of those who participated in the lynch mob. He burns... Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Screen's Big-Star, Big-Story, Man-Woman Thrill in 3D! (original poster) See more »




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Did You Know?


According to Ben Mankiewicz on TCM, Barbara Stanwyck did her own stunts during the waterfall scene, and despite becoming black and blue, never held up the production. See more »


When Rela leaves the undertaker's office and closes the door behind her, reflected in the left door glass pane is the back of a modern truck, and in the right glass pane is a face of a person wearing a dark hat standing nearby. See more »


Rela: You've changed, Wes.
Wes Anderson: Nobody stays the same.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits roll up from behind the scene of mountains, and include "Photographed in Natural Vision 3 Dimension", See more »

User Reviews

Stanwyck and MacMurray redux
17 May 2012 | by RanchoTuVuSee all my reviews

It seems hard to imagine that in the era of such great westerns as Shane and Wagonmaster a film like The Moonlighter could have been so lacking. This film is let down in nearly all of its scenes by its script. Yet while the script falters, Roy Rowland kind of saves the film through directing some interesting action scenes, including an opening lynching that is fairly riveting to watch, as well as a later fistfight between MacMurray and Ward Bond and horseback riding through a cascading waterfall, all done in decent black and white by ace cinematographer Bert Glennon. It's completely puzzling that the story behind the lynching is dropped in favor of the one about Fred, his brother, and Barbara Stanwyck, a strange love triangle. The roles of MacMurray and the actor who plays his brother should have been reversed, with the younger brother playing Fred's part as the moonlighter (cattle rustler) and Fred playing the loser bank clerk. Yet by the end of the film, it seemed at least slightly better than it was looking like it was going to be. Stanwyck looks convincing in a pretty decent rifle fight even if her affair with moonlighter Fred MacMurray is not anywhere near as hot as it was with him when they were in Double Indemnity.

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Release Date:

19 September 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sombras tenebrosas See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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